Twitter and the iPhone have always been a natural combination. Twitter’s mobile-friendly 140 character limit, robust API and mobile-centric features have, overall, meshed well Apples flagship cellphone.
The presence of Twitter on the iPhone was strong enough for Time Magazine to name Tweetie 2 the number one iPhone app of 2009, ahead of both Yelp and SlingPlayer.
Despite this, crossovers between desktop applications and iPhone ones have not always worked out the best. Tweetdeck, the most popular desktop client, has struggled with bugs and crashes in its iPhone iteration. So many that, at one point, Apple pulled the product from its store.
However Hootsuite is hoping to break that curse. Already a powerful Web-based Twitter client, Hootsuite just launched its new iPhone client, which is currently the number one paid social networking app in the U.S.
But how is it and is it worth the two dollars? Here’s a brief rundown of the app so you can decide for yourself.
Hootsuite’s Web app prides itself on being a professional Twitter client. It provides integrated stats tracking through its ow.ly URL shortener, ability to work with multiple accounts at once and the ability to schedule tweets for a later date. Beyond that it boasts a multi-column layout, similar to Tweetdeck, in a relatively clean and customizable interface.
Hootsuite’s iPhone app continues this trend, adding the ability to schedule tweets for a later time (something I don’t believe is in any other Twitter iPhone app) and also has a built in statistics panel.
The iPhone app also integrates in with your Web-based Hootsuite account. All of your columns, including their order, will be added automatically to the iPhone app. This is designed to create a seamless experience for those who use Hootsuite as their primary way of interacting with Twitter.
In addition to the above features, Hootsuite on the iPhone has the expected array of features including URL shortening (through ow.ly), photo upload, the ability reply, retweet, etc. and search functionality, including both trending topics and saved searches.
Feature-wise, Hootsuite is very complete but how does it stack up against a crowded field of Twitter clients for the iPhone? The answer, in many ways, is very well.
There is little doubt that Hootsuite works and it works well. After a full day of heavy use on my phone, the application has never crashed once and has always been fast and peppy. Everything, so far, has worked as advertised. Even normally-straining tasks such as viewing links in the internal browser didn’t slow the app down. It took everything I could throw at it in stride.
The app is also very beautiful and very functional at the same time. It manages to be easy on the eyes and, in most places, easy on the brain. I didn’t have to struggle to figure anything out and there were no complicated symbols or commands to learn. If you can use Tweetie or Tweetdeck, Hootsuite will be a breeze.
Best of all though, Hootsuite feels like a “complete” Twitter app. All of the features you need are available and easily accessible. There was never a moment of hesitation in terms of how to reply, retweet or find any of my needed Twitter streams. You feel as if you are actually using Twitter, not just Twitter lite.
To me, the app felt faster and more intuitive than Tweetie, even after months of using it, and more reliable than Tweetdeck. Hootsuite works well and it does so right out of the box, all you have to do is punch in your Hootsuite account information and go.
As great as Hootsuite is, it is also far from perfect and there are a few issues one should be aware of before pressing the “Buy” button.
First, it is very light on user settings. The “settings” tab allows you to do nothing more than change your Hootsuite account, add/remove Twitter accounts, “tweet the love” for Hootsuite and provide feedback on the product. There are no themes, no ways to change the default behavior at all. If you don’t like the way Hootsuite feels, you are stuck as the most you can do is rearrange and ad columns.
Speaking of those columns, though the interface is intuitive, it feels inefficient. The buttons across the bottom of Hootsuite do not, as with most Twitter clients, take you to your stream, your mentions and your DMs, but rather, to your “Streams” (plural), your statistics, the search feature and the settings.
However, the settings feature, as mentioned above, is a waste and the stats are useless if you don’t use the ow.ly shortener. Instead, to go to a specific column, you either go to your streams home page and select the correct one or, in a manner similar to Tweetdeck on the iPhone “flick” between them.
But with Tweetdeck the bottom bar is put to better use, marking columns as seen and “zooming out” to help users navigate. Hootsuite just feels, to me, like it wastes a lot of space and has and an inefficient navigation system saved only by the fact that it is easy to understand.
But through it all, my biggest beef with Hootsuite for the iPhone is the lock in to ow.ly as the URL shortener. It is used for all shortened links and uploaded images. Unfortunately, though it is neat that ow.ly keeps stats, it also frames every URL, a practice that is very controversial to say the least.
I don’t want to use ow.ly for this reason and prefer the stats in my bit.ly account regardless. However, there is no way to change this default behavior, despite it being a paid app. Granted, the way it handles images isn’t too bad, not much different from other Twitter image services, I don’t want to post links through the app without using a different shortener.
But none of this to me is what I would call a dealbreaker. They keep the app away from perfection, but they don’t detract from the fact it is a fast, functional, robust and stable Twitter app for the iphone at a reasonable price.
If you already use Hootsuite, I doubt you made it this far down in the review before downloading it. Don’t worry, you won’t be disappointed. Users of the Web site will find a very tight, well-integrated app waiting for them in the app store.
For me, as someone who has mostly dabbled with Hootsuite prior to this, Hootsuite on the iPhone is probably the happiest I’ve been with with any Twitter app I’ve download. Scheduled tweets are a nice new feature, but the speed, reliability and intuitiveness are what makes this app great.
Though I would like to see Hootsuite get a way from the ow.ly shortener, at least as the sole provider for the iPhone app, I rarely post links from my phone and it’s trivial to get links shortened in the Web app so it isn’t too much of a headache. The app is more than usable even if you completely refuse to use ow.ly.
Hootsuite can certainly be better, but the things it gets right far outweights that which it gets wrong.
In the end, Hootsuite for the iPhone is everything that Tweetdeck for the iPhone should have been. However, there’s still time for Tweetdeck to get its act together and release a quicker and more stable version of its app. Though the new version is better, I’ve still found a few too many ways to bring it to a halt.